Work-Life Balance

The 40 hour working week governs our daily lives without us being consciously aware of it. Our alarms go off like clockwork each morning as we are left trying to squeeze everything in around the day of work ahead. We enforce unspoken week night rules that sequester our social instincts to their designated “free time” on the weekend. And as we wish away our time at work, constantly scheduling our existence around our careers, we have to wonder whether there is a happier, healthier and more natural way to live. From the nomadic hunter-gatherers that roamed the earth hundreds of thousands of years ago, to advanced civilisations that built settlements and conquered the Earth, we have certainly come along way. Food, water, shelter and warmth are no longer daily concerns. Yet, being so far removed from the fight for survival, we naturally invest our time into one final biological drive, ascending the social hierarchy. Caught up climbing corporate ladders and making our millions, we have failed to capitalise on all our great advances, often forgetting the luxury of survival and somehow always short on free time. For all the knowledge we have attained and all the technology we have developed, the endless routine of work and play no longer has a place in this world.

“Like our biological drives and many of our vices, money can engage the mesolimbic dopamine reward pathway in our brain. And while this may simply be the product of living in a world where virtually everything has its monetary equivalent, the way we respond to money can be used to study our psychological well-being and our prosocial behaviours.”

The biological clock of all life on earth is intricately synchronised with, and dictated by, the physical properties of our planet. The seasons repeat themselves year after year, just as the sun rises and sets each day. Every spring we witness a breathtaking bloom of cherry blossoms, while thousands of miles away, amidst the untouched, dark, dense forestry, packs of wolves hunt ferociously at dusk. Even the simple sea cucumber, seemingly dormant on the ocean-floor, awaits its signal to spawn from the moon. Yet, among all the lifeforms on the planet, there is only one that defies its biological clock, humans. Our new and improved schedule is the nine-to-five, forty-hour working week, and we all unknowingly, helplessly, and often blindly, take it for the truth.”

“For many of us, we work because that’s just what you do and because you need money to survive. Our days at work can pass by without us even questioning their purpose. For others, work is life. We often define our success by our careers because our job can double as our identity. But when we consider why work exists in human society, we start to see how far we have strayed from its true purpose. Work likely came into existence to create more functional societies. Some people were responsible for hunting, others collected firewood, while selected groups guarded the town gate or took care of the children. Everyone had to work in order to better both their own lives and those of others in their society.”

“Starting all the way back from our first days at preschool, throughout our years of education, and even now, during our full-time careers, we have been following a routine that we never chose to follow. Throughout the course of our lives, as the working week has gradually been imposed upon us, so too have we been subtly groomed to accept it for an undebatable fact of life. The more you think about, the clearer it becomes that our entire lives are limited by the time we must dedicate to the working week and our careers. Can we realistically expect to find work-life balance when so much of our lives are devoted to working?”

“Whether you want to believe it or not, the universal measure of social status in our world is money. It quite literally buys you safety, comfort, power and at times, immunity, but it does not necessarily buy you happiness. The free time afforded to us by not having to worry about survival should indeed be filled with social endeavours that ultimately fulfill our quest for happiness and give meaning to our lives. But we have become blind to this concept. We live in a green shadow cast by a false indicator of our importance. Maybe we can not even see where the shadow ends, causing us to prioritise our quest for money and success over our health and our time with family and friends.”